Gates Public Service Law Scholars
Gates PSL Scholars have the opportunity to attend the UW School of Law and then
pursue public interest law without the crushing burden of educational debt. The
scholarship program covers all cost of tuition, books, room and board and incidental
expenses during law school. In exchange, students dedicate five years to public
service. Each of the Gates PSL Scholarship recipients say the chance to earn a law
degree from one of the finest schools in the nation free of any debt is a dream
come true. The financial assistance provided by the scholarship allows them to move
directly into jobs doing what they love – providing public service to those
Scholar Employment Information Map
Lauren Bramwell — 2016 Scholar
Lauren Bramwell’s conviction for equal access and opportunity is deeply personal. “I have found that far too often, a person’s zip code and salary determines their access to justice,” says Bramwell, who grew up in a low-income, rural home. It’s this barrier Bramwell seeks to eliminate through her career in public service.
Bramwell has worked to combat a variety of injustices and is interested in women’s rights issues, LGBTQ equality and criminal justice reform. As a criminal justice fellow and legislative outreach volunteer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, she witnessed the repercussions of indigent public defense and saw how public policy can further disenfranchise marginalized communities, particularly for low-income women’s access to reproductive care.
This past year, Bramwell founded the Boise State Prison Debate Initiative, which grew out of her passion for advocacy and civil dialogue with Idaho inmates. The 14-week program gives inmates an opportunity to develop skills in research, interviewing, public speaking and advocacy. At the same time, students from Boise State University gain a valuable service learning experience that transcends far beyond the walls of a classroom.
“My time teaching at the correctional facility has strengthened my commitment to criminal justice reform and rehabilitation, and has strengthened my personal testimony on the transformative power of education,” says Bramwell. “But more than anything else, the program has been one of the most humanizing experiences of my life. I look forward to using my legal education to explore avenues of reformation that adequately address mass incarceration and help decrease barriers of successful reintegration post-release.”
Maddie Flood — 2016 Scholar
Health care, or food and housing? For Maddie Flood and her family, the challenges of poverty and living on government assistance made decisions like this a very real dilemma. “I developed a keen interest in the people and decision-making systems that had such deep impacts on my daily life” says Flood. “I quickly came to see the extreme dearth of representation for people like me – low-income women of color in our government and legal systems.”
As an undergraduate, Flood studied the inequities in health outcomes for black women, and encountered “the need for greater government services, not just for women of color, but also [for] LGBTQ populations of color.” She joined the Women Empowered, Diversity and Social Justice Committee to heighten awareness of sexual health issues, and also worked in Uganda for The AIDS Support Organization, assisting a group of people living with HIV in the creation of a sustainable soap making business.
After college as a Jesse M. Unruh Assembly Fellow, Flood worked as a legislative aide in the California State Legislature. While seeing the broad impact of policy, she found that many non-profit leaders weren’t equipped to influence the system, and began working at the Rockwood Leadership Institute.
As a Gates Scholar, Flood looks forward to participating in the legislative advocacy clinic, as well as complementing her law degree with courses through the School of Public Health and the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance. “I intend to use the knowledge I gain in law school to create more equitable health care systems and opportunities for low-income, underrepresented populations,” says Flood. “After I gain experience through providing direct legal services, I plan to move back into policy work, drafting legislation that supports the rights of people with low incomes, people of color and people who identify as LGBTQ with an emphasis on people living with HIV/AIDS.”
Ester Garcia — 2016 Scholar
While Ester Garcia works with clients from many different backgrounds, she still sees reflections of her own history in their story. As the daughter of migrant farmworkers, Garcia helped her family and community in Eastern Washington through the use of her English language skills. Acting as an intermediary for individuals facing medical and financial issues, “I gained an understanding of the power and privilege required to ask questions and share information,” says Garcia. She has since worked to ensure that people can not only access the law, but are empowered to affirm their rights and the protections afforded them.
For the past eight years, Garcia has volunteered and worked with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, a non-profit legal organization that champions immigrant rights through low-cost direct legal services, advocacy and community outreach. Starting as a volunteer, she has worked her way up to the position of Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) accredited representative. Her experience at NWIRP has affirmed her lifelong mission to work as a public servant.
“With a law degree and the support of the public service community, I hope to alleviate the deep mistrust and ambivalence of the legal system held by those in marginalized communities and restore faith in law as a tool for social change,” says Garcia.
By actively representing clients, Garcia has learned the real world impact of immigration laws and witnessed the changes possible through social action and impact litigation. “As a public servant I know that knowledge and increased faith in the legal system can have a transformative effect on people’s lives for generations to come.”
Garcia is eager to share and learn alongside the other Gates Scholars. “Through the Gates Public Service Law Program the possibilities for my future are endless, and I hope to instill that same faith in others so that we can all work toward a better, more just future.”
Varsha Govindaraju — 2016 Scholar
Growing up in two very different cultures, Varsha Govindaraju found herself caught between different ideas of success, gender and parenting. Within her community, she observed disrespect and violence against women, children and queer individuals, but it was coming to the University of Washington as an undergraduate that began her journey to culturally competent advocacy. Her aim: to break the cycles of violence for victims of gender-based violence.
Govindaraju, who completed her undergraduate degree by age eighteen, has wasted no time in working to become that advocate. She volunteered as an undergraduate Legal Financial Obligations intern at Columbia Legal Services Institutions Project; served as the Director of Diversity Efforts at the Associated Students of the University of Washington; and acted as the Assistant Director of Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Activists (SARVA) where she hosted events and workshops that focused on healthy relationships and preventing abuse.
Currently in Cambodia, Govindaraju works as a Project Assistant for the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center, learning about rural intervention strategies and how to provide culturally-competent services for women and children.
Govindaraju plans to work in a public interest law firm after graduation. “With my background working to prevent and serve victims of gender-based violence, I hope to continue serving that community with a focus on those facing multiple forms of disenfranchisement such as the low income and homeless community.”
For Govindaraju, the Gates Public Service Law Program will allow her to work in public service alongside a dedicated community. “Public service means identifying needs of communities or groups through immersion or in depth of understanding, and working to solve those issues in an informed and ethical way,” said Govindaraju. “For me, this means using my background as an Indian American woman to understand my own culture and experiences, and move that into advocacy for my own community.”
Michelle Saucedo — 2016 Scholar
When Michelle Saucedo’s father was deported, the twelve-year-old first-generation daughter of immigrants faced the responsibility to help unite her family. Interpreting for her mom and pursuing resources that were few and far between, she determined that no child should have to face seeing their parent taken away.
“I felt like there was no one to help and guide me and my family, and it was then that I vowed to become a resource —first for my family and now for other families facing similar struggles.”
Since moving to Los Angeles to take part in its vibrant immigrant rights movement, Saucedo has transitioned from broadly exploring social justice issues, to organizing for immigrant rights and assisting undocumented youth and their families with legal services. Saucedo, a Board of Immigration Appeals accredited representative, currently works with Asian Americans Advancing Justice, acting as a legal advocate primarily in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) project.
Saucedo understands how the lack of reliable information regarding immigration matters directly impacts a person’s status. “I see this already vulnerable community fall prey to unscrupulous individuals who call themselves immigration preparers, notarios and ‘lawyers,’ and scam them out of hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, often ruining an individual’s chances at fixing their status.”
Driven to become a social justice-focused attorney, she hopes to develop expertise on “crimmigration” to help undocumented individuals who have had negative encounters with the criminal justice system, as well as becoming that resource she yearned for as a child to keep her family together.
“I feel extremely honored to have been chosen as a Gates PSL Scholar. This opportunity nurtures my dreams and hopes for a better world and empowers me to continue fighting the good fight.”